John O’Connor

I once had a professor who constantly raved about the upside of this budding new tool called the internet. He would regularly chirp about its potential for expanding the “marketplace of ideas.”

Then I got my first job, at a community newspaper.

One of the things I immediately noticed was that the Italians, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians and other expats each worshipped in their own Catholic churches. The separate buildings struck me as a bit odd. After all, weren’t they all praying to the same God?

Fortunately, a kindly priest set me straight. The bottom line was that each group viewed “outsiders” with trepidation. They felt safer and more comfortable among those who mangled the new language with a similar accent.

To be fair, the old professor understood the untapped potential of a new tool. But he really didn’t have much of a read on how people tend to behave, especially when they feel threatened.

I would later learn that fear-driven preferences had their place on the internet as well. Yes, the World Wide Web can be a marketplace of information. But many shoppers prefer to keep visiting the same shelves.

In fact, rather than bringing us together, the internet (and its social media spawn) might easily be confused for an echo chamber. Especially where politics is concerned.

As we have seen, politics as now practiced has increasingly become a zero sum game. One side cannot gain ground, because it is often viewed as a loss for the other. Even when good ideas are served up.

Take immigration reform. The Democrats last week introduced a measure to remake the immigration system, including an eight-year pathway to citizenship.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA)) also would make it easier for workers to legally gain entry.

Already, battle lines are being drawn along partisan lines. And as a child of immigrants who had to jump through a remarkable series of hoops to enter this country and become naturalized citizens, I can understand the concerns of those who say the latest proposal makes things way too far easy.

But if you are running a long-term care facility, support for this measure should be a no-brainer. Why? Because it could help reduce and possibly eliminate one of your biggest headaches: adequate staffing.

I’m no mathematician, but it seems to me that an influx of highly motivated, relatively unskilled people desperate for work just might play in your favor. Those are exactly the kinds of employees this less-than-perfect measure promises to deliver.

As I see it, the choice here is simple, really.  You can support something that warts and all will make your life better. Or you can pray with your own kind.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.